Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Beyond the tipping point: when institutions become un-reformable

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There is a big difference between an attitude that things are terrible, getting worse: let's try and set that right; and a realization that things are terrible, getting worse, and there is no realistic possibility of improvement.

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In relation to institutions, my adult life has been a gloomy series of enlightenments that one after another of the institutions in which I was involved and towards which I felt loyal was not just terrible, but un-reformable.

So, this would apply to the National Health Service, the medical profession, science, Universities, State schools, the Civil Service, the Church of England and to the United Kingdom as an entity - and England specifically.

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The final recognition typically came from a sequence of sub-recognitions - first about how bad things were and that they were getting worse, then a historical insight that this process had apparently been at work for some decades, then a realization that the majority of the people in the institutions (especially the leaders) approved the changes and regarded corruption as progress, then the final nail of perceiving that the collective will of these institutions had actively (albeit limply) embraced the spirit of self-corruption and suicide.

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Typically, there was a sudden realization of being in a minority of one (well, there might be another few minorities of one scattered here and there throughout the organization, but typically low in the hierarchy and on the verge of retirement).

There was a realization of not speaking on behalf of anybody else.

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Whether radical or reactionary, anyone taking an active role in trying to shape an organization must feel they are genuinely speaking on behalf of legitimate authority within that organization - but when there is no legitimate authority, then he is silenced: necessarily, since he can with honesty claim only to be speaking for himself.

Of course, in a rational world he would be able to speak on behalf of the divine order even against a majority of the rest of the world (as with some of the prophets); but that is impossible when the church is itself part of the corruption: in such circumstances anything truthful a prophet says will be taken as idiosyncratic subjective preference, enlightened self-interest, sheer destructive evil, or evidence of insanity.

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An organization may be very-probably un-reformable in terms of the inter-dependent complexity of its corruption; but still in theory a sufficiently insightful, good, powerful leader might be able to cleanse the stables.

However, once an institution, a nation, consists almost entirely of the corrupt who embrace corruption; once people have got used to regarding bad and good and good as bad - then that entity is un-reformable.

It will collapse, it may be destroyed before it collapses; the function it should perform must be done by something else or it will not be done at all.

Something from outside the entity will intervene at some point to replace it - and if all around the entity shares in its un-reformability - then the 'outside' intervention will necessarily be extremely 'alien' to that entity, because only the alien could be sufficiently free from the layer upon layer of corruption.

How could it be otherwise? One way or another something very different (but not necessarily better, probably worse) will prevail. 

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Note: The 'tipping point' here is usually only seen in retrospect, and does not have a formulaic definition: it is that point at which an institution has some combination of factors such as leadership, majority, internal structure, internal propaganda, recruitments and appointments and promotions and redundancy practices etc at which it becomes solidly-commited to its own corruption and destruction, at which this becomes irreversible for lac of any counter-constituency. After this tipping point has been reached, any remaining persons who (for example) try to be honest, or loyal to the institution's original function, will be ignored, starved of privileges, actively-suppressed, or expelled from the organization and replaced with corruptible or already-corrupted personnel.